Scenes from THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE Book Tour

Monday, November 10, 2014

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Andrew took the photo above of San Francisco’s Bay Bridge (and a native San Franciscan enjoying the view!) during a brief break before our book signing at Book Passage at San Francisco’s Ferry Terminal.  It was part of our determination to not fall sway to our more typical book tour craziness, but to keep breathing and enjoying the ride.

And what a wild ride the past few weeks have been!  Of course after years of having our heads down, researching and writing and shooting, it’s such a wonderful experience to connect face-to-face with our readers and with the booksellers who are doing such an amazing job of getting THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE into their hands.

Having just had the distinct pleasure of sleeping in our own bed in Manhattan again after our last couple of weeks on the road from coast to coast, we wanted to share just a few of the highlights of our recent book tour stops across North America.

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As we’d mentioned in a prior post, we were delighted to be able to launch THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE at Patty and Tom Erd‘s extraordinary spice store The Spice House in downtown Chicago, and even ventured north for a lovely event at their store in the Milwaukee Public Market.  We did yet another book signing at The Spice House in Geneva, Illinois (above left), which is about an hour west of Chicago in the Fox Valley, and not far from Karen’s alma mater (St. Charles High School).  So did the view of the Fox River from our room at Geneva’s Herrington Inn & Spa (above right) say “autumnal,” or what?

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While we were in Chicago, we were delighted to slip into Topolobampo for a wonderful late lunch, and had the added bonus of getting to say hello to chef-owner Rick Bayless (who’s coming out with a new edition of his bestseller Mexican Everyday), chef de cuisine Andres Padilla (forever to be known as the maker of the best chayote dish we’ve ever tasted!), and pastry chef Jennifer Jones.

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While all of the dishes at Topolobampo sang, it was this wood-grilled huitlacoche / woodland mushroom / truffle / corn quesadilla with a dried chile salsa negra that underscored the satisfyingly savory depth of flavor that dried chiles are able to deliver, an insight we appreciated on a whole new level now that we’re eating vegetarian.

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Karen had the pleasure of being interviewed about THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE by Monica Eng — the long-time Chicago Tribune writer who co-hosts “Chewing the Fat” with Louisa Chu on WBEZ/Chicago Public Radio — at Barnes & Noble in the Old Orchard mall in Skokie.  (We’ll be talking with the pair again soon, so keep an eye out for a link to the podcast!)

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While our all-too-brief visit to Milwaukee didn’t leave us with time for dinner at Sanford (which we’ve long considered to be one of the best restaurants in the greater Chicago area, and well worth a trek), we were happy to get to stop by to say hello to chef-owner Justin Aprahamian, thank him for his kind words for our books (including mentioning CULINARY ARTISTRY here), and congratulate him on his 2014 James Beard Award as Best Chef: Midwest and on the birth of his first child!

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After our event at The Spice House in Geneva, we connected with 20 members of Northwestern’s Council of 100, of which Karen was a founding member in 1993, at two restaurants owned by James Beard Award-winning chef Carrie Nahabedian (above right):  drinks at Naha, followed by a wonderful dinner at her hot new restaurant Brindille, where Ali Ratcliffe-Bauer (above left) serves as chef de cuisine.

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We’d been looking forward to meeting Yotam Ottolenghi at his book party at Omnivore Books in San Francisco, but our flight from ORD to SFO was unfortunately delayed…again and again.  The only bright side of being parked at O’Hare for hours on end was that we were able to enjoy even more of what we believe is the world’s best airport food — at Rick Bayless’s Frontera — which we did, again and again.

By the time we finally arrived in San Francisco (too late to make the party, sadly), we were tired and cranky and in need of dinner…and a drink!  On the Club Floor of the Kimpton hotel where we were staying, as we were poured glasses of wine we spied a familiar face across the room:  the legendary Jacques Pepin!  He was in San Francisco shooting his KQED television show, and was so charming during our conversation that all of our travel crankiness simply melted away.  At one point he mentioned that there was going to be an 80th birthday tribute to him, and Karen balked — no way was this vital man about to turn 80!  Later on, she Googled his birthday, and not only discovered that he shared it with Andrew (whose birthday is also December 18th), but that — incredibly — his 80th is not far off.  Having attended Gael Greene‘s 80th birthday party, we are grateful for the first-hand knowledge that culinary professionals can indeed stay forever young!

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After our drink, we headed to another bar a few blocks from our hotel:  the bar at Millennium, where Chef Eric Tucker (whom Karen interviewed for THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE) proves — through dish after dish after dish, from arepas to pierogi to chicken-fried cauliflower — that vegan cuisine can indeed be satisfyingly delicious.  Eating at Millennium’s bar reminds us of the experience of eating at the horseshoe-shaped bar at Joel Robuchon in Paris:  Service is great, and conversations are often sparked, as happened with the couple celebrating their anniversary seated next to us.

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We enjoyed our talk and book signing for THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE at Omnivore Books in San Francisco, which was attended by a young cook who was very passionate about food and his job cooking at Campton Place.  As it was also a few short blocks from our hotel, we decided to pop in for lunch the next day — and are we ever glad we did!  We loved the Indian-inspired food, which was as gorgeous as the room, and Tweeted as much during our meal.  While it was Chef Srijith Gopinathan‘s day off, he nonetheless saw our complimentary Tweet and instructed the dining room team to send us dessert!  We enjoyed the lovely mango tart, and asked to thank the kitchen — where we were reunited with the young cook we’d met the day before at Omnivore, and had the pleasure of meeting his two sous chefs running the kitchen that day.

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We were honored to be the kick-off speakers in a new series being offered by Copperfield’s Books in conjunction with Kendall-Jackson Winery, and loved getting to meet and hang out with Copperfield’s passionate bookselling team of Kaitlin Smith, Tyler Cook, and Vicki DeArmon.

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Before our book signing at San Francisco’s Ferry Terminal, we went for a stroll outside where Andrew swears THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE was “blessed” by Gandhi himself (above left).  Our thanks to Book Passage and Amy Cleary (above right) for making our visit such a pleasure (not to mention helping Karen restock her stationery stash)!

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Our jam-packed book tour schedules virtually never leave us with time to plan ahead for meals, nor to enjoy much more than a quick bite on the run.  When we found we had an evening free in San Francisco, we counted our lucky stars that we were able to nab a table at America’s only Michelin two-star restaurant with a woman at its helm.  Atelier Crenn, which features not a menu but a poem (truly!), is the creation of Chef Dominique Crenn, whose good-natured mugging for Andrew’s camera (above) proves her great sense of humor is on a par with her culinary achievements.  It was an added bonus to cross paths with sommelier Jeffrey Bareilles (late of Manresa, which is sadly closed due to fire), whom we had the pleasure of interviewing for THE FOOD LOVER’S GUIDE TO WINE.

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The two best vegan pizzas we’ve ever tasted were at Brooklyn’s Paulie Gee’s and at Portland’s Portobello Vegan Trattoria, which Chef Aaron Adams put on the map as one of the country’s best vegan restaurants.  We loved everything we tasted at Portobello, from the salad to the veggie burger to the pizza, not to mention the cannoli our adorable waitress insisted we take back to our hotel with us.

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During the day, we signed copies of THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE around Portland, including at Powell’s specialty Home & Garden store.  That night, Karen moderated a panel discussion with Portland chefs Aaron Adams (formerly of Portobello) and Aaron Woo (Natural Selection), who are not merely two of Portland’s best veg*n chefs, but hold their own on a national level.  Audience members loved hearing the stories and insights of this thoughtful pair of Aarons, one (Woo) the son of a butcher and the other (Adams) a former charcuterie maker who have both ably applied their technical knowledge to great effect.  It was also a pleasure to meet Portobello’s current chef Matt Zita and owner Dinae Horne (bottom right) at the event.

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We were happy to sign Powell’s stock of THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE, so you can pick up an autographed copy there when you start your holiday shopping!

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We’d never been to Vancouver before culinary bookseller Barbara-jo McIntosh of Barbara-Jo’s Books to Cooks coaxed us there with her wonderful newsletter and enticing events.  More than a decade ago, while on book tour in Seattle, we rented a car on our own nickel to pay a visit, and it proved so successful (not to mention enjoyable) that we’ve made Vancouver a regular stop on every book tour since.  We enjoyed our event at the bookstore, and especially our dinner with Barbara-jo afterward at the wonderful (and veg-friendly) Burdock & Co.

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One of the things we really loved at our first publisher Van Nostrand Reinhold (now a part of Wiley) was getting to know the sales team, from whose perspective we inevitably benefited in coming to understand book publishing and the market for culinary books more deeply.  It was a pleasure to get to spend time with two of Hachette Canada’s reps in Vancouver — Jen Fyffe (top left, whom we told has a name twin in Rick Bayless’s office!) and Iolanda Millar (bottom right) — and to join them on visits to Barbara-Jo’s Books to Cooks, not to mention to meet Ahmed Mansoory (top right) at Indigo (“the Barnes & Noble of Canada”) and Caitlin Jesson (bottom left) at Book Warehouse (“serving Vancouver for more than 30 years”).

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We might have miscalculated exactly how far Panz Veggie Restaurant was from our hotel (the lovely Fairmont Pacific Rim), but we’re glad we ended up there.  Not only did we enjoy our modest Chinese vegan lunch specials and the restaurant’s citrus soya “ribs,” but the restaurant was so busy that we had a few minutes to browse the restaurant’s bookshelf while we waited for a window table, which is how Karen discovered Will Tuttle‘s book The World Peace Diet, which she’s currently reading and already loves.  After lunch, we enjoyed our conversation with the owner, who insisted that we take the book with us and encouraged us to “pass it along.”  We will!

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After having been disappointed that our lovely hotel the Fairmont Pacific Rim didn’t offer a single hot meatless entree on its lunch menu on our cold, rainy day of arrival, we ventured a bit further afield for other meals and were happy to find vegetarian and even vegan options noted at a number of Vancouver restaurants, from the lovely Burdock & Company to the fun, casual La Taqueria, which offered two vegetarian (delicious roasted poblanos with creamed corn, and cowboy beans with Mexican cheese) and two vegan (mushrooms in a too-sweet-for-our-taste chipotle sauce, and seasoned ground tofu) taco options.

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When we last visited Seattle in late September to keynote the International Food Bloggers Conference (IFBC), we had the pleasure of paying our first visit to Plum Bistro, which we loved — and found its signature vegan Mac-N-Yease (above right) lived up to the hype as America’s very best, a distinction we believe it shares with Tacoma’s Quickie Too and Washington, DC’s Everlasting Life Cafe.  (We also had the pleasure of meeting radio host Danny Bonaduce and his wife Amy, who happened to be dining there, too, during Danny’s first 48 hours of going vegan!)  But after interviewing chef-owner Makini Howell for THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE by phone, and even eating at her family’s restaurant in Tacoma (Quickie Too) and meeting her wonderful mother, we hadn’t had the pleasure of meeting Makini in person until this trip.  Good thing we got to see her twice — first at lunch at Plum Bistro, then again when she graciously showed up for our book event at Omnivore Books — to start making up for lost time!

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Book tours can be so stressful that the people behind the scenes helping authors hold it all together are essential — and a great “author escort” (as they’re known in the book publishing world) is worth his or her weight in gold.  We’ve enjoyed some of THE best anywhere:  from Chicago’s justly famed Bill Young to San Francisco’s awesome Martha Cullmore to Seattle’s also-awesome Joy Delf — whose license plate reads “FOODIE” (bottom right).  Joy deftly helped us maneuver a long list of bookstores to visit within a short timeframe (while fighting unexpected traffic jams!) with incredible warmth and grace.  At Seattle’s famed Elliot Bay Books, we had the pleasure of talking books (including Albert French’s Billy!) with Casey Stryer and Karen MaedaAllman (top left).  At the Northgate Mall’s Barnes & Noble location, we were impressed to meet vegetarian ultra-marathoner / bookseller Andrew Lane and hear about his plant-powered athletic pursuits.  And at Third Place Books, one firm handshake was all it took to launch a fascinating conversation about well-traveled cookbook buyer Emily Adams’ former life as a chef!

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The last-but-not-least event of this leg of THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE‘s book tour was a wonderful discussion hosted by Seattle’s Book Larder (owned by the lovely Lara Hamilton, top middle), and conducted by James Beard Award-winning author and “Gluten-Free Girl” Shauna James Ahern (top right and bottom left), who did a superb job of guiding the conversation and Q&A with a packed roomful of thoughtful foodies.  It was a special pleasure to meet Kim O’Donnel (bottom middle), who’s been writing and saying nice things about our books for years, and to see Plum Bistro’s Makini Howell (bottom right) again, and to share word of the vegan sweet shop she’ll be opening in early 2015.

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We came full circle with our last dinner out of this trip by having dinner at the new Indian restaurant Shanik, which is run by chef-owner Meeru Dhalwala (of Vancouver’s Vij’s), whom we’d interviewed for our 2008 book THE FLAVOR BIBLE when she was vegetarian and we were omnivores.  She was shocked to learn that we’ve been eating 99 percent vegetarian since May 2012, and shared that she herself now allows herself meat one day a week.  Meeru (holding an Indian spice blend, above right) explained that, as half of her cooks are Indian and the other half Ethiopian (bottom center), all of Shanik’s spices are labeled in three different languages (bottom left).  While the restaurant’s elegant Indian-inspired cuisine features many modern dishes (including a split-pea-and-spinach dish inspired by T. Colin Campbell!), we’ll admit to loving Shanik’s traditional samosas (bottom right)!

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We’re happy to be back home in New York City again, but just as happy to be holding on to some lovely memories of moments we carved out during our travels (including enjoying our drive across the Golden Gate Bridge en route to wine country, above)!

Atelier Crenn in San Francisco is at ateliercrenn.com.

Barbara-Jo’s Books to Cooks in Vancouver, British Columbia, is at bookstocooks.com.

Barnes & Noble is nationwide, and at barnesandnoble.com.

Book Passage in San Francisco is at bookpassage.com.

Book Warehouse in Vancouver is at bookwarehouse.ca.

Brindille in Chicago is at brindille-chicago.com.

Campton Place in San Francisco is at camptonplacesf.com.

Copperfield’s Books in northern California is at copperfieldsbooks.com.

The Herrington Inn & Spa in Geneva, Illinois, is at herringtoninn.com.

Indigo in Vancouver is at chapters.indigo.ca.

La Taqueria in Vancouver is at lataqueria.ca.

Millennium in San Francisco is at millenniumrestaurant.com.

Omnivore Books in San Francisco is at omnivorebooks.com.

Panz Veggie is in Vancouver at panzveggie.com.

Plum Bistro in Seattle is at plumbistro.com

Portobello Vegan Bistro in Portland, Oregon, is at portobellopdx.com.

Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon, is at powells.com.

Sanford in Milwaukee is at sanfordrestaurant.com.

Shanik in Seattle is at shanikrestaurant.com.

The Spice House in Chicago; Geneva, IL; and Milwaukee is at thespicehouse.com.

Sweetpea Baking Company in Portland, Oregon, is at sweetpeabaking.com.

Third Place Books in Seattle is at thirdplacebooks.com.

Topolobampo in Chicago is at rickbayless.com/restaurants/topolobampo.

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